God of Carnage: Third Wall production showcases barbaric side of human nature

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Categories: Professional Theatre

Photo Barbara Gray

A playground fight between two 11-year-old boys is the reason for a meeting between their supposedly civilized parents. But the veneer of civility and socially acceptable behaviour is paper thin and the two sets of parents are soon brawling with gloves off.

Christopher Hampton’s translation of French playwright Yasmina Reza’s social satire lays bare the insincerity and ugliness in the married couples’ relationships with each other and with their opposite numbers. Little wonder that their children are monsters with the example of their parents to guide them — or not.

In the Third Wall Theatre production of God of Carnage, director Ross Manson has chosen to retain the Paris setting, but other productions in the U.S. and UK have placed God of Carnage in their home countries — a recognition of the universality of the theme of savagery just below the surface.

The references to Neanderthals in the script, coupled with Brian Smith’s boxing-ring style set design, underline how little progress human beings have made over the ages. The couples group and regroup in alternating pairs. Each exposes his/her true nature, from insincerity through lack of caring to downright cruelty, demonstrated by the brutal abandonment of a hamster. (No, I never find a description of cruelty to animals even slightly entertaining, regardless of the context or the character traits the reference is meant to exemplify.)

Like Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Reza’s God of Carnage focuses on the barbaric side of human nature. Both the script and the textured performances by the cast quickly expose the nastiness of the four characters and demonstrate how easily the veneer of polite control falls away.

All this is clear without the awkward opening sequences of photographs of cute kids and pleasant music, followed by the ripping down of the screen on which the photos flash. We understand that polite niceties are easily thrown aside, just as a cellphone will later be destroyed by being dumped in a vase of flowers, and the flowers, the last symbol of social nicety, will also be trashed.

The message of God of Carnage, as presented in the Third Wall production, is crystal clear. Perhaps this is why the show leaves such an unpleasant aftertaste.

God of Carnage

By Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton

Third Wall Theatre

Director: Ross Manson

Set: Brian Smith

Lighting; Rebecca Miller

Sound: James Richardson

Cast:

Alain Reille…………………………………………Todd Duckworth

Veronique Vallon……………………………………Mary Ellis

Michel Vallon……………………………………….John Koensgen


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